8 Hardcore Games Like DayZ

Image credit: Bohemia Interactive

Starting out as a mod for ARMA 2, DayZ has become a successful full-fledged standalone title that’s had a huge impact on the modern-survival genre! Its influence can be seen in nearly every survival game, as they draw from DayZ’s mechanics or setting. 

From the realistic survival systems to heart-racing combat, it’s easy to spend hundreds of hours in DayZ’s gameplay loop. If you’re searching for experiences similar, we don’t need to remind you how addicting it is! 

The in-depth simulation-level systems in DayZ is where it really shines. It extends beyond just basic hunger/thirst management. Bones can break, wounds can turn into infections, and even player temperature levels are important.  

We’ll skip over a few of the obvious recommendations, like Rust and ARK. We’ll focus on titles that have the same hardcore-sim elements, or similar survival gameplay. Our list for hardcore games like DayZ will help you find a new world to survive in!

Don’t Starve (Together)

Available on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS.


Whilst it’s a big change from DayZ’s photorealistic visuals, and post-apocalyptic setting, Don’t Starve is just as challenging. It’s a survival game with a charming, Tim Burton-inspired art style.

The game describes itself as an “uncompromising survival” experience, and it delivers. It throws you into an unexplored world, full of weird creatures, and even the night itself is dangerous!

Don’t Starve is a twisted experience, where everything is out to kill you. The gameplay loop focuses on mainly scavenging and crafting, building a base and gear to defend yourself.

It combines the best of the roguelike and survival genres for a one-of-a-kind game. The more you play, you’ll unlock other characters to play as – all with their own unique abilities that can aid with survival.

The main goal is to… Don’t Starve (pardon the pun). If you want a more concrete goal, the game does feature world bosses to defeat and progress through.

This is one of the few games that match DayZ when it comes to being downright brutal. It’ll take you multiple (if not dozens of) tries to understand the game, and learn the mechanics.

The main Don’t Starve game is singleplayer, however, there is a standalone multiplayer expansion. This allows you to explore the strange, horror-filled world co-op with friends!

Both games also feature a huge modding community. There are even gameplay overhaul mods available to tweak your survival experience, and ones that add custom characters!

If you think Don’t Starve is right up your alley, you should read our games like Binding of Isaac list! The majority of the titles on there share a darker aesthetic, and are blooming with personality.

V Rising

Available on PC.

Vampires might seem out of place on a games like DayZ list, but trust me. V Rising takes the hardcore experience, throws it into a Gothic open world, and places you in the role of the monster.

Instead of running from the monsters—zombies—in DayZ’s case, V Rising has you playing as them. You’re a recently-woken vampire, weakened after centuries of slumber.

The aim is for you to rebuild your castle, and hunt to regain your strength. With that being said, don’t forget it’s a survival game. The sunlight will burn you. Fear it.

Toss away your guns and first-person shooter gameplay. Instead, V Rising is more comparable to an ARPG and features fast-paced combat with precise controls.

The game allows for plenty of customization when it comes to battling with your to-be-Dracula. There is a range of different weapons and skills to create builds with.

Where are V Rising’s survival elements? Whilst the game doesn’t have the traditional hunger/thirst system, it is replaced by blood.

Blood also doubles as a way to unlock new powers and cast abilities. Quality of blood matters too! The game also goes heavy on the resource gathering systems, and building up your castle.

Explore alone, compete in player-versus-player servers online, or just build an army of darkness with friends! The game also has online multiplayer that offers something for every survival player.

If this all sounds incredible, check out our titles like Valheim list! It features other survival games with base-building gameplay, and boss-centric progression.

Dying Light 1 + 2

Available on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

If you love the zombie-filled cities of DayZ, you’ll enjoy exploring the world of Dying Light! Both titles in the series are worth giving a go if you just want action-packed, undead fun.

Dying Light doesn’t go hard on the survival mechanics, and keeps the crafting elements quite light. What it does offer is an immersive world and horror-filled atmosphere that rivals DayZ.

The Dying Light series are part of the survival-horror genre, with a laser-precise focus on action. The game is fast-paced and the combat system – especially melee, is one of the best in the industry.

Every weapon just feels so satisfying to use, and the way zombies respond – you can nearly feel the impact through the screen. It makes just mindlessly cutting apart or blowing up zombies so enjoyable.

The icing on the zombie-infested cake lies with the parkour system. The game’s movement feels incredible and fluid. See a building? You can scale it. You can hop from rooftops, and climb up anything.

This leads to some of the most heart-racing, adrenaline-packed run-and-gun situations that’ll have you smiling from ear to ear.

The first time night hits and zombies go absolutely wild—you’ll never forget the joy (and fear) leaping from buildings to get to your safe zone or home base.

The Dying Light games also feature co-op, so you can drop-kick zombies together! You can play with up to 4 other players.

7 Days to Die

Available on PC.

Grab a canvas, splash Minecraft on there, and then fill in the blank spots with DayZ. This would give you the masterpiece that is 7 Days to Die!

It features a block-filled world but with the hardcore DayZ-like gameplay. Whilst 7 Days to Die’s combat is more arcade-y, its survival mechanics are just as realistic.

Just like DayZ, the game goes deep with its systems, requiring players to even manage their temperature and properly preparing food. If you aren’t careful, you can get sick or end up with an infection!

The game even features vitamins, which can help fight off future infections. Where 7 Days to Die really stands out is with its base-building and RPG elements.

On top of the hardcore survival gameplay, the game features a levelling and perks system. This adds a more linear sense of progression, which is great if you want a more goal-oriented title.

7 Days to Die also adds more variety with its roster of undead monsters. There isn’t just the basic infected. There are spider-like crawlers, screamer zombies, and even animal zombies!

There’s nothing more terrifying than being hunted by a rotting, undead bear! Want to know why it’s called 7 Days to Die?

This is because every seventh day in-game, a blood moon occurs. This signals a shift of gameplay to wave-like tower defense. You’ll need to defend your base against hordes of special zombies!

Don’t worry – you don’t have to face off against the undead waves alone. The game features server-based multiplayer. It’s relatively easy to set up and start a world with friends!

NEO Scavenger

Available on PC, Android, and iOS.

Behind NEO Scavenger’s simple-but-charming visuals is a relentless wasteland with unique turn-based gameplay. It takes place in a near-future, post-apocalyptic Michigan, with local cryptids galore.

Unlike the real-time days and cycles we see in DayZ, NEO Scavenger allows you to play at your own pace. The game moves whenever you take your turn. You can save when you want, and resume whenever.

NEO Scavenger is so hardcore, there’s only one difficulty setting. Permanent death. If you die, there are no do-overs, and you don’t respawn on the beach where you can pick up your items again.

The game also goes a step further than DayZ when it comes to realistic survival mechanics. It even simulates the metabolism, intoxication, and fatigue—everything is tracked and accounted for.

This doesn’t go for just the player character, either. Even the enemies have the same amount of depth with complex, simulated wound systems.

Wounds can have different levels of bleeding, cause infection, and even pain management is important. What makes NEO Scavenger particularly brutal, though, is the only progression is through skill.

The game doesn’t have levels that power you up, instead, it’s just down to your knowledge and the decisions you make. It forces you to learn from your mistakes, and apply new strategies from previous lives.

Just like your typical survival game, it features an extensive crafting system. You can even get resourceful, making scopes from binoculars, or noise traps from combining bottles with rocks!

NEO Scavenger’s gameplay might not be as action-packed as DayZ, but it gives it a run for its money when it comes to hardcore. Its simulated survival systems are deeper and more challenging.

Caves of Qud

Available on PC.

How does a science-fiction open-world RPG have anything in common with a grim survival experience? Well, Caves of Qud is actually post-apocalyptic too and just as hardcore.

It rightfully earns its spot on this list for experiences like DayZ due to its simulation elements, and unforgiving gameplay. The game draws from Dwarf Fortress and D&D for its level of detail.

Caves of Qud doesn’t have fancy, photorealistic visuals like DayZ, but that doesn’t take from the game. It manages to be just as immersive with its simple, text-based interface.

The game is a procedurally-generated roguelike and takes place in a retrofuturistic world. Every time you play, it randomly creates a new set of historical events, political groups, and towns for the setting.

Qud has an extensive character creation system, where you can choose between being a mutant or “True Kin” (unmutated human). You can assemble a toon from over 70 mutations and defects to pick from!

Everything in the game is simulated. Every monster and NPC you meet has the same level of detail as the player. They can access the same mutations, they have skills/abilities, and political allegiances.

This allows for a rich, living and breathing world to explore. Don’t forget, we mentioned hardcore earlier? Death in Qud is permanent. If you die, you’ll need to start over with a new character!

Whilst the game features survival elements like hunger and thirst, it doesn’t result in death. Instead, they apply debuffs if you forget to eat or drink. It is still an RPG at heart.

Unturned

Available on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, and Xbox One.

Put DayZ through a Roblox filter, and you’d end up with Unturned! Funnily enough, the developer actually has a history of creating zombie apocalypse-themed Roblox game modes.

Whilst Unturned started out as a DayZ clone with simpler visuals and the appeal of being playable on lower-end PCs, it has grown.

Unturned forged an identity of its own, and carved out a spot for itself in the survival genre—as well as this list for games like DayZ! It’s been updated with NPCs, quests, progression systems, and even special zombies.

The basic art style is honestly also charming. It grows on you, and if you can start to love it – the game is one of the best survival experiences the genre has to offer.

The base gameplay loop is very similar to DayZ. Instead of a huge focus on base-building like ARK or Rust, it consists of exploring the giant map and looting for gear.

You’ll also need to scavenge for food, hunt down animals, and if you’re lucky – find the tools you need for survival. Don’t let the game’s basic graphics fool you, the survival mechanics are rich.

Unturned’s systems come close to DayZ’s depth. You’ll need to manage your temperature, use splints for broken bones, and properly prepare any food/drink.

What the game does better, is the addition of quests and NPCs. They add in objectives for the player to complete, and gain rewards like blueprints for special items, and experience points.

The NPC interactions go beyond just surface level, too. Unturned features a reputation system, which can change dialogue options and how they respond to you.

SCUM

Available on PC.

If there was any specific title deserving of a spot on a “games like DayZ” list – SCUM would be it. The proof is in the pudding. If you looked at both side-by-side, it’d be hard to spot the differences. 

SCUM pulls you from the post-apocalyptic Chernarus, and pits you up against other prisoners in a Hunger Games-esque fight for entertainment. The game takes place over a massive 225 square km map. 

The game takes DayZ’s photorealistic visuals, and then also dials the character customization up to 100! It has the most in-depth character creation I’ve ever seen, and it isn’t just for show either. 

“The devil is in the details.” This is the developer’s go-to phrase for describing SCUM’s complex simulation and character creation. Even the weight of your character has an effect on the game. 

For example, the game features an inertia and metabolism system. The weight of the character changes the inertia when it comes to movement, as well as how fast they digest food. 

If you digest food fast, you’ll also need to defecate even faster! This detail-heavy simulation even goes down as deep as how fast they put on (or off) clothes. Bigger characters will take longer. 

This complex simulation also extends to other systems, such as the day/night cycle, weather, animal tracking, and combat! The game boasts fully realistic bullet physics, so gunplay will feel familiar coming from DayZ. 

If you ever wanted clear progression in DayZ, this is also where SCUM shines. It features a full levelling system, including experience points and skills to learn! 

Honorable Mention: ARMA 3 (and Reforger)

Available on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series.

Why not go back to where it all started? This list of games similar to DayZ wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the ARMA series.

You’ll immediately feel at home in the world of ARMA coming from DayZ. From the controls to the level of realism, the systems will feel familiar.

It’s also living video game history, and highlights DayZ’s military-simulator roots. ARMA features the same gunplay and sandbox interaction, but instead of an apocalypse – it’s war.

ARMA 3 is still popular, and regularly makes it into Steam’s top 50 charts. The game is backed by a strong fan base and community-created servers.

If you’re ever missing DayZ’s apocalyptic setting, there are even survival-themed servers in the game. Some of them even adopt the zombie element!

Playing on console? Don’t worry! If you don’t have a PC for ARMA 3, you can go check out ARMA Reforger instead.

ARMA Reforger is powered by the same Enfusion engine as DayZ. The game is set in the height of the Cold War, and aims to create an authentic combat experience.

Whilst it isn’t the terrifying post-apocalypse, Reforger manages to craft a just-as-scary atmosphere. It has you relive the horrors of war on the open-world island, Everon.

The strongest part of the ARMA series is how it accommodates player-created content. It gives all the tools needed to create your own experience, maps, and even gameplay overhauls!

This support for community content is what led to DayZ’s creation! It also means there’s a diverse range of servers to check out – from sandbox, to deathmatch, and even GTA-styled role-playing.

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